According to ancient human fossils found in Tierra del Fuego
dating back 8,500 to 11,500 years ago, humans lived in this remote region long
before it became known as the “Land of Fire.” The name “Tierra del Fuego” was
coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 when his ships arrived
at this southernmost tip of South America. It is thought that, in the mists of
dawn, the dispersed fires and columns of smoke from the native populations
seemed to float on the water, thus giving this archipelago its name.
called on Ushuaia, the capital city of the Tierra del Fuego province. Ushuaia
is the southernmost urban center in the world and the closest city to the South
Pole. In December and January, the region enjoys 17 hours of daylight. Despite
its isolation and harsh conditions during the colder months of the year, or
perhaps because of these things, there is a lot to see and do in and around
Ushuaia. During Regatta’s recent visit, guests took an
unforgettable trip on the Southern Fuegian Railway, also known as the End of
the World Train, through Tierra del Fuego National Park to Lapataia Bay.
Completely cut off from the rest of South America, Tierra
del Fuego was developed in the 19th century as a penal colony where Argentina
sent its worst criminal offenders because escape was virtually impossible. The
prisoners were expected to take care of themselves, and a railway was built to
transport wood from the forests for heating and building.
Now a tourist attraction through this remote national forest, the unique train transports
guests across rivers and peat bogs, the beautiful formations of peat moss for
which this region is known. There was a brief stop at the Macarena Waterfall
Station, where guests saw the lovely falls and also heard about Tierra del
Fuego’s indigenous people, the Yamana.
Arriving at Lapataia Bay, the group was met by a catamaran
and treated to a cruise through Beagle Channel. These waters are among the best
in the world for trout fishing, but on this day the cormorants, sea lions and
seals were the stars of the show.
The cruise visited Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, which is also
known as the Lighthouse at the End of the World. Put into service in 1920, it
guards the entrance to Ushuaia and is now controlled remotely.
Quite comfortable with tourists, the seals and sea lions on
Seal Island and Isla de los Lobos went about their business of napping and
playing, unaffected by the arrival of spectators.
Island of the Birds is home to cormorants and other sea
birds and a few seals and sea lions as well.
There are numerous other thrilling adventures to be had at the end of the
world for those looking to explore the majestic wilderness of South America. Marina will stop in Ushuaia on South American Holiday, which departs on
December 8, 2013, as will Regatta on
the February 3, 2014 sailing, Mystical
Andes & Majestic Fjords.